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The Heterocyst-Specific NsiR1 Small RNA Is an Early Marker of Cell Differentiation in Cyanobacterial Filaments

AutorMuro-Pastor, Alicia M.
Fecha de publicación2014
CitaciónmBio 5 (3): e01079-14(2014)
ResumenDifferentiation of single cells along filaments of cyanobacteria constitutes one of the simplest developmental patterns in nature. In response to nitrogen deficiency, certain cells located in a semiregular pattern along filaments differentiate into specialized nitrogen-fixing cells called heterocysts. The process involves the sequential activation of many genes whose expression takes place, either exclusively or at least more strongly, in those cells undergoing differentiation. In the model cyanobacterium Anabaena (Nostoc) sp. strain PCC 7120, increased transcription of hetR, considered the earliest detectable heterocyst-specific transcript, has been reported to occur in pairs or even in clusters of cells, thus making it difficult to identify prospective heterocysts during the early stages of differentiation, before any morphological change is detectable. The promoter of nsiR1 (nitrogen stress inducible RNA1), a heterocyst-specific small RNA, constitutes a minimal sequence promoting heterocyst-specific transcription. Using confocal fluorescence microscopy, I have analyzed expression of a gfp reporter transcriptionally fused to PnsiR1. The combined analysis of green fluorescence (reporting transcriptional activity from PnsiR1) and red fluorescence (an indication of progress in the differentiation of individual cells) shows that expression of PnsiR1 takes place in single cells located in a semiregular pattern before any other morphological or fluorescence signature of differentiation can be observed, thus providing an early marker for cells undergoing differentiation. IMPORTANCE Cyanobacterial filaments containing heterocysts constitute an example of bacterial division of labor. When using atmospheric nitrogen, these filaments behave as multicellular organisms in which two different cell types (vegetative cells and nitrogen-fixing heterocysts) coexist and cooperate to achieve growth of the filament as a whole. The molecular basis governing the differentiation of individual vegetative cells, and thus the establishment of a one-dimensional pattern from cells that are apparently the same, remains one of the most intriguing aspects of this differentiation process. Recent evidence suggests that, at any given time, some cells in the filaments are more likely than others to become heterocysts when nitrogen limitation is encountered. The robust heterocyst-specific nsiR1 promoter, which is induced very early during differentiation, provides a valuable tool to analyze issues such as early candidacy or the possible role of transcriptional noise in determining the fate of specific cells in cyanobacterial filaments.
Identificadoresdoi: 10.1128/mBio.01079-14
issn: 2150-7511
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